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The Daily Collegian’s front-page ad

by on March 5, 2014

On February 26th, The Daily Collegian shocked readers with a full, front-page advertisement. In loud, bright colors, the daily news we knew and loved was replaced by a large graphic outlining UMass Living-Learning Communities. Collegian Editor in Chief, Stephen Hewitt, included a note within the Opinion and Editorial section outlining why the student newspaper made this shocking decision. He attributed the “innovation” to the Collegian’s declining revenue, also referencing this year’s cut to the Friday publication. Newspapers everywhere are facing financial hardship and student publications are certainly no exception. But how far should we go to save our newspapers?

There’s no doubt that newspapers everywhere, not just in college towns, need advertisements to survive. With a dwindling readership, journalists have to find other sources of revenue to keep their paper afloat. But by filling our papers with ads instead of the news, are we really doing our duty by telling the news? Or are newspapers becoming a circular with a few news articles?

Does the topic of the ad matter? Wednesday’s ad was fairly harmless with a res life theme, but if it was for an S.G.A. campaign or conflicted with a story, should it have been run? Should advertising in newspapers be conditional or should it be open, no matter how crazy or controversial the ad? By running the full-page ad, the Collegian opened a can of worms, but a can that many other newspapers have opened before. Although one ad doesn’t seem like much in the long run, it sets a precedent that needs to be followed up with a clear set of conditions. How often is this allowed? Who is allowed to advertise? Will it only be run in times of need or will it be a standard practice?

I’m not sure if I could have handled a decision like this. In the long run, one ad doesn’t make much of a difference, but it certainly sets a precedent. The Collegian plans to include more front-page ads in the future, which worries me about the paper’s credibility. What if the editors are approached with an offer to run sponsored content? They could probably use the money, but how much do they value their principles? If I were an editor I probably would have played it safe and stuck to what I know. I am a firm believer in my ideals—to tell the news and tell it truthfully. Then again, I don’t know what its like to watch a beloved project balance on dwindling funds, so rejecting front-page ads is easy to say but very hard to act.

Wednesday’s Daily Collegian

Hewitt’s explanation

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2 Comments
  1. I have to say, that even though I do not read the Daily Collegian often, it did shock me as well seeing the ads on the cover. There might be some balance of not making it an entire full page ad like the one they did that you are talking about. Have they ever tried to doing a drive to raise money to keep the paper going? Another question I have to wonder about, is if the physical copy matters as much as the digital one at this point. Even major publications today have their front page plastered with ads, but it’s still pretty easy to get to the content.

  2. I think this issue is now more prevalent more than ever as readership for newspapers is on the decline. Ads play their role in providing much needed revenue for newspapers, but where’s the limit for advertising? I know this is shocking to say, as a journalism student, but I don’t think that The Collegian was in the wrong for running the front page ad. It was an innocuous ad, for a residence, that had nothing to do with the content on the inside. I think had the content of the ad been different or had there been an article regarding housing, this conversation would have a much different slant to it, but in this particular instance there is no conflict of interest in my eyes. Maybe I’m just being delusional on this count, but I think this may be the future of the newspaper. I think it’s going to be important to keep an eye on the ads in the newspaper to make sure they are staying innocuous and not crossing the line into conflicts of interest.

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